By 2019 James Hervey-Bathurst
One of the current Mayor of Hereford’s last official duties before handing over to her successor was to open the May Fair on 7th May. I was delighted to attend, having last been to the Fair as a child, and to witness the ceremony involved.
We processed with several civic dignitaries from the Town Hall to the cathedral close. The group included the Mayors of Neath, Merthyr Tydfil and Swansea and the deputy Mayor of Haverfordwest as well as mayors from the market towns of Herefordshire and the Mayor of Gloucester, all of whom are traditionally invited to this event at one of the first fairs to open in the season. The event was co-hosted by Dean Deakin, chairman of the South Wales and Northern Ireland section of the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain.
On arrival and after getting up into the horse-drawn trailer provided by Weston’s Cider, Sue Boulter, the Mayor of Hereford, the Bishop and Brian Wilcox, the Chairman of the Herefordshire Council (until the recent elections) performed an ancient ceremony during which the Bishop and Brian Wilcox accepted a quantity of bagged wheat, measured in bushels, as a fee for allowing the fair to be held on the streets of Hereford. It was performed with a combination of dignity and humour, but we were assured that money had also changed hands.
We toured the fair and ventured onto several rides as guests of the showmen. There was a great atmosphere and growing crowds. It was good to see a tradition being upheld as a way of marking the start of the fair, which seems popular in the city as it brings visitors into the centre.